Where Are They Now?: Kurrgan

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August 28, 2013

After leaving the pale blue canvases of WWE’s rings behind in 1999, the jovial giant once known as Kurrgan has found a new home in entertainment. But for Robert Maillet, the road from the squared circle to the silver screen was a long, arduous journey.

Growing up in New Brunswick, Canada, he was drawn to wrestling, watching it with his father. Spearheaded by Emile Dupree, Grand Prix Wrestling toured through the Maritimes every summer, bringing stars like “Macho Man” Randy Savage to Canada’s easternmost provinces.

“It was fun, I really got into it,” Maillet told WWEClassics.com.

The WWE’s worldwide expansion in the mid-1980s only cemented him as a hardcore fan. Being taller than most other children, Maillet knew he might have a future as a wrestler. At the age of 17, he sought out Dupree for advice on breaking into the business. The answer wasn’t quite what he wanted to hear.

See classic photos of Kurrgan | Watch Kurrgan in action

“He thought I needed to hit the gym,” Maillet recalled. “He told me I was too skinny.”

Still eager to get in the ring, the 7-footer reached out to Stephen Petitpas, another Grand Prix mainstay who was playing hockey during the winter break. Petitpas took a liking to the towering teenager and kept him in mind for the next summer tour.

“Six months later, he called me and asked if I was still interested in becoming a wrestler,” Maillet said.

Several wrestlers had left the territory in the middle of the summer, creating a number of open spots in Grand Prix. Because of his imposing size, Maillet was quickly thrust into the main events of the tour, a giant taking on the local heroes. He had to pick up the basics of the ring very rapidly.

“I got a quick crash course in pro wrestling, lockups and headlocks and things like that,” he explained.

Though he admits being pushed into the spotlight from day one was very intimidating, he had plenty of positive influences around him.

“I listened to the veteran wrestlers that had tons of experience, like Leo Burke,” Maillet said. “I was never really alone.”

Plus, the rigorous schedule of Grand Prix ensured he had a good number of matches under his belt by summer’s end.

“You’re wrestling seven days a week for four months straight,” he told WWEClassics.com. “It’s a great way to learn.”

Maillet went on a brief tour of Mexico before getting the opportunity of a lifetime in 1991: a tryout with WWE, arranged by Burke. The giant was flown to Utica, N.Y., for what he thought would be a guaranteed spot in WWE. He admitted he was a little starstruck at first.

“Getting to the arena and meeting all the Superstars after watching them on TV is intimidating and pretty cool at the same time,” Maillet said.

Though he was excited to be in such illustrious company, the monstrous Canadian’s tryout didn’t go quite as he planned.

“I had just finished the season in the Maritimes, so I was a little burnt out and wasn’t ready for the match,” Maillet explained. “Basically, they said ‘Get experience and we’ll call you back.’ ”

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